My 'back to work' journey has begun, but as an expat, it's a long and winding (and expensive) road. I took the first step back in April when I completed my work permit application. That in itself was a bit of a minefield, trying to navigate the USCIS website, not least because everything depends on what visa category you fall into - and there are hundreds! In my case, I'm a 'trailing spouse' (loving that title!) on an L2 visa. Two months on, I'm still waiting for the permit and my wallet is $450 lighter.
Next on the list is to see whether I'm eligible to teach in Illinois (I'm both UK qualified and experienced) as each state in the US has its own Professional Educator Licence (PEL) and teachers are required to apply or renew each year. But before I can get that far, I have to get my educational and vocational qualifications translated into their US equivalents. This process starts with the Illinois Education Board and a certified Credential Evaluation Service - another $220 plus $42 to have my original documents couriered. Add to this the payment to both my universities to provide and send my transcripts and I'm in for over $300. After that, I'll find out whether I need to complete any further re-training - this could entail tests, application certification, and of course, more fees. By the end of this process, I'm likely to be at least $1000 out of pocket and still no job. It makes the phrase 'speculate to accumulate' a rather bitter pill to swallow.
In England, the recruitment crisis in the teaching profession rages. Every school seems to struggle each year to fill their positions with qualified and experienced educators. Head Teachers are required to spread their nets ever further and there are numerous incentivised schemes designed by the Education Department to attract professionals into the classroom. It seems a far cry from the many and complex hoops I need to jump through to get back in the classroom, and yet according to a recent article in The Chicago Tribune: 'Colleges and universities are trying to figure out how to entice more people into the teaching careers to fill vacancies, ... The U.S. Department of Education data on the 2017-18 school year shows nearly every state experienced difficulty hiring qualified teachers...' Like the UK, the issues seem to be around low pay and workload, so it begs the question: why is the process of getting (back) into teaching here so convoluted and expensive.
At the end of this particular journey, I may well admit defeat. I may decide that there are just too many costly hoops to jump through, but the pull of the classroom shouldn't be underestimated - the smell of the chalk dust, the roar of the class and all that! But I'm also realistic about what I can and can't do - I can't work the crazy hours I did in the UK, I can't manage the same workload and have any time or energy left to experience and enjoy everything that our new life in America can offer. That said, I can't help but think that if I have the skills, experience and passion to teach, then it would be a great shame to see that go to waste. So for now, I'll wait for the work permit, my transcript of qualifications and for the next hoop.